Teaching Naked

Teaching Naked and the Inverted Classroom

The term Teaching Naked was recently coined by José Bowen of Southern Methodist University (SMU). Concerned that technology in the classroom was hindering interaction between students and staff, he removed the computers from classrooms.  However rather than being anti-technology, he argued that contact time between students and staff was too valuable be used for mere content distribution, that could easily be handled online.  Then he expanded on the idea of the inverted classroom, where students have their first contact with material online in advance of class, so that by the time they come to class they already have some understanding of the material and are able to discuss it and ask questions.  This approach to teaching and learning required both staff and in particular students to change the way they worked. Chief among the challenges was getting students to take responsibility for their own learning, instead of passively expecting to be taught.  He has developed these ideas and provided practical advice to lecturers in his recent book (Bowen, 2012) .

I'm very attracted to the ideas proposed by Bowen. In 2006 I taught a class using blended learning.  The content was delivered as pre-recorded videos online and I used the classroom time for labs, technical issues, and tutorials. This was an example of the Inverted Classroom. I felt that this worked quite well. However this module was a night class and so the student profile was very different from that of day-time students.  These students were very well able to work by themselves and were very motivated.  They were delighted not to have to come to class if they didn't feel the need. When they did come to class it was because either they or I had very specific needs or objectives.  It's not at all clear that this model could be applied as successfully to full-time day students, as Bowen proposed. Like many of my colleagues I wholeheartedly subscribe to Bowen’s view of best practice when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom, but with one small proviso: I don’t think it would work with my students. The Inverted Classroom requires significant buy-in from students and they may not have the discipline to make it work for them.

Currently all online teaching at CIT is synchronous. Lecturers connect to virtual classroom in real-time and deliver a live performance.  The lectures are recorded for students who miss the class, but they are neither edited nor supplemented.  A lecturer teaching the same module again in subsequent years delivers a live performance again.  I think the model is inferior to the asynchronous model.  But the asynchronous module of delivery poses too many difficult questions.  A lecturer is paid to stand in front of a class for a set numbers of hours per week.  If a class is recorded once and deployed in several subsequent semesters, how is that work measured? The relationship with online content is also challenging.  If another party, say the BBC or Open University, has made content available online that is a perfect fit for the course, can the lecturer use that instead? Teaching with technology and the abundance of content online pose challenging questions for the higher education sector. What is the lecturers’ work? How is that work measured? Is lecturing the same as content distribution? The technical problems associated with integrating technology into higher education have largely been solved. But the really hard questions remain.

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